Hello! I am an avid lover of all things K-pop who started this blog to have an outlet for the numerous thoughts and think-pieces I make about this music genre. In particular, I am particularly drawn to the music in K-pop, which I think is extremely diverse, intriguing, and enjoyable. Generally speaking, K-pop is unafraid to experiment, and more often than not, it creates songs that are as cliché as they may sound, one-of-a-kind. However, once in a while, I will discuss other aspects of K-pop that are not directly related to music, such as vocals, dance, and stage presence, among other things. Vocals will especially be discussed for I have a passion for singing and analyzing vocalists (which all be done in good faith).
Technically, I only ‘stan’ 1 group, which is Enhypen, having followed them from their I-Land Days, but I listen to all sorts of groups, male or female, and from different generations. There are also groups that I love the vast majority of their songs and the members, but I haven’t bought any merch from that group. I would refer to them as groups which I do ‘stan’ but I simply don’t do much besides listening to their music, watching their live performances, and looking at their other content once in a while. These include groups such as NCT, Stray Kids, GFRIEND (I will forever miss them), EXO, TWICE, and more.
As a disclaimer, what I say in this blog is my opinion only, and I will not state something without an explanation. Feel free to disagree with me, and let’s have a nice chat!
As a first post, I thought it would be a good idea to explain how I evaluate a K-pop song.
To me, one of the most important thing about a song is that it has a melody or some sort of hook that sticks and be memorable, to the point that I can remember the song afterward in my head and be able to sing it out loud afterward. More often than not, a good melody is required for this to be possible. Think of classics such as Girl’s Generation’s Into the New World, where practically all of its melodies, from the instrumental, verses, and chorus, are instantly memorable and iconic. In the case of newer groups where I have noticed a certain trend of dropping melodic lines in favour of rap-talking or sing-talking, the rhythm and execution of catchphrase also tend to matter in the score of this criteria. Think of aespa’s Chorus of in Next Level, where Karina’s attitude and swag helped make the “I’m on the Next Level” hook instantly memorable.
Additionally, the production of the accompaniment to the melodies also plays an integral role in the song’s quality. You can have the catchiest melody in the world but an extremely subdued and uninspired piece of music production to accompany it and the song still feels lackluster. A great example of when a song offers both strong hooks and an incredible production would be Everglow’s La Di Da. It is easily one of the best K-pop songs ever released (in my humble opinion hehe) 🙂
I also highly value the execution of the song by the members of the solo artist themselves. More often than not, their vocal and rap delivery increase or add to the song’s enjoyability and overall quality. MCND would be one very good example. They are incredibly charismatic and have skillful execution of the songs given to them which elevates their overall quality. Another example is essentially any song from Taeyeon’s discography. Her immense skill as a technical vocalist, along with the stylistic choices she makes to convey the emotions and the meaning of her songs essentially elevates any material that she sings. Even her worst songs would be made better just from the sheer presence of her voice and her ability as a vocalist.
To evaluate the quality of the songs I review in my blog, I shall break down my review into these parts.
10 – The hooks of the song are magnetic, essentially keeping my attention the whole way through the song.
9 – Same as 10, but perhaps a few parts are noticeably less memorable than others.
8 – Solid hooks, but their peaks are not as strong as 9 and 10. It’s good, but not great.
7 – Decent hooks, but perhaps more generic and I feel that I may not remember it over time.
6 and 5 – Meh. I don’t see myself remembering the song afterward, and if so, very few bits in between. A 5 is simply a weaker version than a 6.
4 -> 1 – Terrible hooks. I love some cringe in K-pop, but sometimes, when it is too cringe for my taste, it ends up going down instead of up despite being memorable.
10 – The melodies and the production are very complementary to each other. The soundscape is dynamically interesting and exciting. The song sounds very refined, both with the vocal mixing and the background. If there are any sound distortions that may be seen as ‘ruining’ the quality of the music production such as vocal effects, they should be used tastefully and fit in the context of the song.
9 – An almost 10. It may take most of the boxes, but falls a bit short.
8 – Solid production, but there are some noticeable flaws. Perhaps some parts of the production are significantly weaker or generic than others.
7 – Decent production, but nothing groundbreaking.
6 and 5 – The flaws in the production are relatively serious and greatly affect my listening experience.
4 -> 1 – When the production essentially makes the song unlistenable in my opinion.
Vocal and Rap delivery
10 – Perfection. The performance of the artists adds to the song and elevates it to a whole new threshold. It should complement the song as well (meaning can be taken into account!)
9 – Falls a bit short
8 – Solid, but I can’t help that it could be further elevated still if sung by a different artist
7 – Decent, doesn’t add too much but doesn’t take away either
6 and 5 – Vocal and/or rap performance is noticeably lacking that it starts taking away from the song and sticks out.
4->1 – When the performance is noticeably bad that it makes the whole song worse.
Please note that I have a singing background, but not necessarily a rap background. Hence if a song is more rap-based, I would simply go off with what I think sounds good and appropriate for the song (like energy level, if they are on time, etc.)
Additionally, my opinions may change over time, and I will make revisions in the future at some point.
Finally, like everyone, I have a certain taste in music that will not completely align with yours. Therefore, if I have a certain dislike or a pet peeve about a particular thing, it will noticeably affect my rating. Reviews by nature are not completely objective. Mine will not be any different. I will only give my honest opinions and thoughts about the songs I review at the time of the review’s release.
With all that in mind, I also thought it would be good to give you an idea of how I review songs by beginning with a song review of Enhypen’s latest title track, Future-Perfect (Pass the Mic)!
Future-Perfect is among the most polarizing K-pop songs that have come out in 2022 so far. From my experience of social media, primarily through Reddit and youtube, Future-Perfect is either extremely well-loved or hailed as one of the worst songs of the year. I can understand the sentiment. The song is laced with heavy vocal effects at parts, which remove the individuality of the member’s voices. It is also highly claimed to be a typical generic boy group track and does not sound like an Enhypen song. However, I would like to digress on the points.
In my opinion, the vocal effects were used tastefully as a stylistic choice. Autotune and vocal effects have always been a sore point for Enhypen music and its listeners, but given their track record, it is clear that the music producers for Enhypen intended the vocal effects to be a stylistic choice. Before I listened to Enhypen music, autotune and vocal effects were a pet peeve that I indiscriminately judged negatively, but I think that in the case of Enhypen, they elevate the song’s overall quality.
In Future-Perfect, it was admittedly slightly jarring in the opening line, but because it is clear that some parts were mixed with a lot more vocal effects than others, specifically the intro and post-chorus (which repeats itself, “Walk the line, I hate the line, etc.”), it again proves that it was a stylistic choice. Removing the individuality of the member’s vocal tones invites the listener to also chant the hook along with Enhypen themselves. Additionally, the distortion complements the almost angry and aggressive vocal delivery of this section of the song.
About the claims of being ‘generic’, while it isn’t the most innovative song out there, it still manages to stand out among the sea of boy group tracks that succumb to the common trends, like chanted choruses, a lack of melody, and so on. For one, the intro itself is already unique, because not many K-pop songs start as abruptly as Future-Perfect does, which jolts the attention of the listener. The song structure is also not typical, lacking a bridge. The Chicago-drill-inspired beats that are used in the verses are unlike any other song I’ve seen in K-pop so far either. As I’ve already shown, several things would contradict the ‘generic’ claims that are imposed on this song.
Finally, about ‘not sounding like an Enhypen song’, it is laughable to me especially when Enhypen hasn’t embraced a signature sound yet. From Given-Taken to Future-Perfect, all the songs sound quite different and tackle different genres, although admittedly, Blessed-Cursed and Future-Perfect are a little more similar to each other than all their other title track, leaning more into hip-hop.
With that out of the way, I shall proceed with the review.
Future-Perfect doesn’t have hooks that will immediately make you addicted to the song. However, they creep up on you. I was quite surprised by how much I ended up remembering the song considering that when I first listened to it, I didn’t think that the hooks were particularly good.
There is a recurring motif in the song with the intro, as it repeats itself after every chorus and even ends up being the outro of the song. It is quite sticky, and I found myself chanting along with them whenever the song begins and ends. It is a very effective and strong hook that ties the whole song together.
The rap-talk parts in the first verse are made memorable by employing an addictive rhythm that sounds like a call and answer, which adds to the song’s cohesiveness. The Pre-chorus is the epitome of excellent use of the call and answer technique, it is arguably the most memorable part with instantly sticky melodies.
The chorus is initially underwhelming that took me a few listens to unveil its charms. With time, I understood the main appeal of the chorus. Once again, it employs the call and answer technique, with an ‘ooh’ repeated with every line stated in the first part. This is initially underwhelming, but this approach works in increasing the song’s longevity because it me something to look forward to every time the chorus hits. Additionally, the strongest hook of the chorus is when Enhypen sings, ‘I pass the mic, pass the mic, pass the mic, o, o, o’. This hook is among the strongest parts of the song.
The second verse is another rap part that I find charming because of its rhythm, similar to the first verse. It isn’t particularly sticky, but it works. The song proceeds to another pre-chorus, then chorus, and ends on the outro.
When evaluated as a whole, I do think that the song has very strong hooks. I felt compelled to play the replay button even though I wasn’t wowed by the song in the beginning. The Pre-chorus particularly won me over, with it being one of the best pre-choruses of the year in my most humble opinion.
I love how the song makes use of beats that highlight exactly which parts should be emphasized for maximum effect. This is especially true in the transition to the pre-chorus, where it contrasts the use of silence along with very hard-hitting beats to build up the hype of the song.
The production is complementary to the song’s hooks throughout and they strengthen each other. However, I do think that at times, the song lacked dynamics that I would expect from a hard-hitting banger. It ranged from moderate to loud throughout and I think a slight adjustment to the mixing and volume would have helped this song feel more impactful.
The production of the pre-chorus in particular, however, has me in awe. It gives the cinematic, larger-than-life appeal that built up the tension for the chorus.
Overall, I think there are obvious strengths in the production, but it could have reached even further.
Vocal and Rap Delivery
In this comeback, it was the first time that Enhypen properly rapped in their songs. I think that while by no means they are the greatest rappers in K-pop, they delivered their lines with enough conviction to win me over. Niki in particular did quite a good job, and he seems to have a lot of potential. The member’s convictions carried over the hype of the song, but like the production, I think I wanted more dynamics from their rap. More tonal inflections would have made it a bit more interesting, but they tried and did a good job.
Meanwhile, I think the vocal performance in this song is among Enhypen’s best and most convincing. They aren’t the best technical singers either, but given their level of technique, they did their song justice. The pre-chorus showcased Jungwon’s and Jake’s soaring vocals along with Sunoo and Heeseung’s beautiful vocal tones. The Chorus was well attacked by Heeseung and Jungwon in particular, which added punch and grit to the song, but I think that Jake’s vocal delivery in the chorus was lacking, perhaps attributed to his level of technique. I’m sure that all of them can still improve in the future, but I am convinced, especially concerning their previous comebacks.
Rap – 8/10
Vocal – 9/10
Overall – 8.5/10
When I look at the song as a whole and reflect on how I feel about it, I genuinely think that it is among their best title tracks. It is the first track where I can feel that Enhypen has made the song completely their own with their charisma and vocal delivery. In songs such as Given-Taken or Drunk-Dazed, their vocal performances didn’t exactly add anything to what the song itself offers. This is quite a big plus in my eyes. Additionally, I can remember the song from beginning to end, which is uncommon even among the rest of their songs, even though I technically do stan the group. I think with even more time to brew, this song could end up being my favorite title track from them so far.
Future-Perfect may not be Enhypen’s magnum opus, but it shows immense potential to what the group members themselves can add to their songs and break away from being a ‘manufactured artist’, riding on the material that is given to them. It will be a great hype song to play for a burst of energy, having you sing along with them, or at least, I certainly will!
Overall Evaluation: 9/10